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In Greek mythology the minor figure of Tityas (more commonly Tityus), a Titan-like figure of unbridled lust, was the son of Elara, who was a "daughter of Orchomenus" (Apollodorus) and one of Zeus' many conquests. "Orchomenos" in this case might refer to a king of the name or merely to the city of Orchomenus in Euboea, which was one of the early centers of power and cult in archaic Greece, with many mythic connections to the older chthonic gods. In the later interpretations of Hellenic mythographers who were reinforcing the supremacy of Zeus— Hesiod, for instance— the sky god is said to have "hidden" Elara in the Earth "for fear of Hera" (Apollodorus), and there Elara gave birth to Tityas; thus a mythic inversion explained the alternative (and surely older) tradition that earthborn Tityas was the offspring of Gaia herself. In Homer's Odyssey (vii.372) Odysseus' host, the deep-cultured king Alcinous, calls Tityus "son of Mother Earth:" his people, the ancient Phaeacians, had manned the galleys that took Rhadamanthys, legendary king of Crete, to visit Tityas in "Euboea, off at the edge of the world"— at least from Alcinous' perspective.

Tityas (from the same root that gives "Titan") was said to be a giant:

"I saw Tityus too,
son of the mighty goddess Earth— sprawling there
on the ground, spread over nine acres—two vultures
hunched on either side of him, digging into his liver,
beaking deep in the blood-sac, and he with his frantic hands
could never beat them off
" — Robert Fagles, translator, The Odyssey 1996)

The crime for which Tityas was forever punished was the attempted rape of Leto. When Leto was performing some secret rite at Delphi, Tityas came tearing up and tried to rape her. Her screams brought her twins, Apollo and Artemis, who put an end to the chthonic monster with their arrows. "Saturos is the usual Greek word for satyr, but among the Sicilians they were called Tituros. Remove the rho and you have Tituos, or Tityus," Robert Rouselle has suggested (see link). Tityas, being immortal, was confined to Tartarus, spread-eagled on the ground, where two vultures forever ate his liver, which Antiquity identified as the seat of the passions: a myth element more familiar in connection with the Earth-born Titan Prometheus. Apollodorus, Bibliotheke i.4.i, gives these details, but see also Homer, Odyssey xi.660—-668; Pausanias, ii.30.3 and x.6.5; Plutarch, Greek Questions 12; Hyginus, Fabula 55; Pindar, Pythian Odes (iv.90ff).

Pindar, who was extremely well-read in mythography, mentioned Thasus as a son of Tityas (Pythian Ode iv.46). Thasus is more usually accounted a brother of Europa and of Cadmus.

A similarly-named Titias. whom Robert Graves suggested was a doublet of Tityas (Graves 1955, 131.10), was beaten by Heracles in a boxing match during funeral games for the brother of King Lycus the Paphlagonian, at Mariandyne in Mysia, details that place Titias firmly in the "outlands" of Anatolia, where worship of the Great Goddess remained strong. Heracles' feats always represent the hero as the champion of the new, Olympian order, overcoming archaic chthonic earth-forces(Ruck and Staples 1994). In this case Heracles killed Titias by a blow to the temple, held to have been an accident, but for which Heracles made amends (Apollonius Rhodius, ii, 776ff.), another aspect of the mythic theme of killings for the sake of the new order (cf. Apollo's necessary purification after killing Pytho).

The scarab beetle Dynastes tityas bears his earthbound name [1]


Robert Rouselle, "Women's Dreams in Ancient Greece," The Journal of Psychohistory vol 26.2, Fall 1998 (e-text)


  • The Greek Myths: The Complete And Definitive Edition, Robert Graves
  • The Odyssey, Homer , Robert Fagles (Translator), Bernard MacGregor Walke Knox (Introduction)
    Carl A.P. Ruck and Danny Staples, The World of Classical Myth 1994.

Greek Mythology

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